Mana Burn


In college I wasted a lot of time at coffee shops. First was Insomnia, but for some reason lost to me now it fell out of favor amongst the coffee cognoscenti. It was replaced by a joint called Idiot Boy, at the corner of Lane and High. Big comfy couches, good music, and several chess boards made it an excellent place to socialize. I met a lot of interesting people there, and generally think fondly of the place when I think of it at all. Idiot Boy was where I first saw Magic: The Gathering. At first I was only passingly interested, looking over people’s shoulders as they played the game. Then I decided to buy some cards and try the game myself. I forget where I bought my first pack of cards, but I ultimately spent more money than my meager college existence could maintain at Meijer, which was conveniently located right across the street from the OfficeMax at which I worked. My lunch break was spent running to Meijer to buy another pack of cards and then to read them all in the OfficeMax break room.

I played for about a year, maybe a little longer. Rumor has it there was some altercation at Idiot Boy, but while I was never able to confirm that the management had laid down the law: no more Magic games were permitted on the premises. As such, I ended up playing most of my Magic games against my friend Reuben, who in turn played mostly against his friend Doug. Reuben and I both greatly envied Doug’s collection of cards, and I don’t think either of us ever beat him in a game. Over time my interest in the game waned, although I still kept all my cards, hoping some day to play again. When I bought our house, I’m fairly certain I finally threw out my cards, as I haven’t found them since (and I’ve a vague memory of me standing in front of the trash bin, staring down at the cards at the bottom, feeling sad; but that might be a projection).

Mike was also a Magic player. A dedicated player, as it turns out, with a tremendous (and expensive!) collection of cards. Seeing his boxes of cards re-ignited my interest in the game, and I – perhaps foolishly – purchased a few sets of cards for myself. When I told Mike about this, he revealed to me that one of his super powers is to cause people to spend huge sums of money on collectible trading card games. I’ll never be able to out-spend what he’s already spent; and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be able to construct decks that can seriously challenge those with which he plays. Luckily neither is terribly important to me, as I just genuinely like to play the game.

To make up for all the resounding defeats handed to me in Magic, I thought I’d trick Mike into playing a game I had a better chance of winning. So Saturday afternoon I invited Tom and Mike over for a game of Axis & Allies, a game for which I have a great fondness. We all agreed that Mike ought to play the USA, since it’s extremely hard to lose the game with the USA, and even if they do lose it’s not likely to happen quickly (as opposed to USSR, for example). I played Germany and Japan, and Tom took USSR and Great Britain. I took a quick lead and played a solid game for quite some time, until I stretched Germany’s resources too thin and let the British Navy waltz into central Germany. Whoops. After that, it was all downhill. I was defeated.

I demand a rematch, though, as I refuse to allow this to be another game to which I’ll consistently lose to Mike. I don’t know when we’ll be able to play again, though, as I don’t yet know the effect this game had on Mike’s wife. It’s been well documented that A&A is loved by the people who play it and reviled by the people who are married to the people who play it.

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